Softer Landings with the Fool

RWS Tarot 00 Fool.jpg
RWS Tarot 00 Fool” by Pamela Coleman Smith – a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley (http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/) for the public domain, and retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot (see note on that page regarding source of images).. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.

This will be an on-going series of short articles that will hopefully help to add substance to your tarot readings, and make them stronger. This is my first article for Pagan News, and since I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, it’s fitting that today’s talk is on the Fool.

The Fool is traditionally numbered zero in what is known as the Major Arcana, or trump cards. The imagery depicts a rather smartly dressed fellow about to naively walk off a cliff. The Sun, which also has its own card, is to his back. An excited white dog barks near this person, acting as warning from our unconscious, “What are you doing? Can’t you wake up for a second and see you’re about to walk off a cliff. Are you listening to me?”  Or perhaps this white dog is spurring our Fool on to his leap. “Oh boy oh boy! This is gonna be great!”

Before we get started about the meaning of this card, let’s go down a meandering path. In mythology and fairy tales, the hero or heroine may encounter an animal that leads them to another magical or forbidden area. In Celtic and Welsh mythology, these animals were unusual for they were depicted in these tales as having white fur. In Alice in Wonderland, the main character follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, and finds herself, quite unexpectedly in another realm. By coincidence or design, our tarot Fool is encountering a white animal, and this same type of going into the unknown is happening.

The dog in the Fool card, and animals in mythology and stories that lead characters into hidden places, are representatives of the natural world. The Fool is in his head, the animal companion is not of the intellect, but of primal nature. Our dog reminds us that our bodies are entrenched in nature. The body can also surprise the person for both heart-warming and heart-breaking reasons. For example, pregnancy can be both an intentional and unintentional path.

An important point, all of this imagery is allegorical. If you go out in the woods waiting for some white animal to lead you to a new discovery, you will be sorely disappointed. Dreams are another story. Try to follow where animals take you in dreams.

Alice par John Tenniel 14.png
Alice par John Tenniel 14“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

But what of the Fool in the card, the main character? In older depictions of this card, the Fool is a bit of a wandering hobo. He has a disheveled, vagabond appearance, quite removed from the dandyish and clean youth of the Rider Waite deck. In the Waite deck, he holds a white flower, which symbolizes a freedom from primitive baser instincts, and also a straight staff tied with knapsack, full of hidden personal items. Again, our Fool in the Rider Waite deck may think he’s given up primal instincts, but remember our white dog, nature’s reminder of the animalistic, he’s along for the ride too.

The Fool may be naive about what they’re getting into, but not everyone leads a life like that. The Fool card is still relevant, for anyone, including the most structured planners. When we embark on any new project or path, we can plan for everything, but there is still an element of the unknown and accident. Changing careers, graduating from college, all manner of life changes are in the domain of the Fool. When encountering this unknown, it does require a leap of faith.

Ultimately, this is a card of immense creation, but don’t let this card be an excuse to jump off a cliff without a parachute or a plan. How many times in your life have you heard this clever plan?

Yep! We’re moving there. Hollywood (or wherever) here I come. I don’t have a job, I don’t have a place to stay. I don’t know anyone there. But, you know. I think everything is going to be okay. I’ll figure it out on when I get there.

This is still in the realm of the Fool card, but isn’t very smart. It easy to confuse the romantic notion of a pioneering, exploring spirit, which most people would agree is a positive, with simply being reckless. When encountering the Fool tarot card, try to figure out the multiple paths to land. Because you’re going to land somewhere.

Tarot aficionados will often use the term “Fool’s Journey” to describe the Fool’s interaction with other trump cards. The first characters the Fool usually meets are card number I and/or card number II, The Magician and/or The High Priestess. But different orders can and will happen. You could, if you wanted to as a way of getting to know the cards, map out the events of The Hero’s Journey to the trump cards of the tarot.

Quick Tip: In your readings, see which card the Fool has a relationship with, or is juxtaposed next to. If the Fool is next to a destructive card*, such as The Tower, be careful as it may be a warning of disaster. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. However, If the Fool gets paired up with The World, then this leap of faith usually has a more benign outcome.

*Yes, I know, save your letters! The power of Tower card can be just what you need in your life. We’ll talk about this at another time.

Spell Working

Wicca is primarily a religion. It is the worship of the Old Gods and the attunement with nature through the eight festivals of the Wheel of the year. But what of the practical side of the Craft, the working of Sacred Magic?

To put things in perspective, magic is very much a secondary function of the Craft. Any Coven worth its salt should put the worship of the Gods and spiritual development of the Coven members first. Nevertheless there are working evenings of the Coven or Esbats to give them their correct Craft name. These usually occur on or before the full moon of each month although special working meetings may be convened at any time in an emergency.

There are many different types of Magical working ranging from long and highly ritualised Golden Dawn style invocations of God forms to simple candle magic workings, all are valid and may work equally well as the complex ritual.

The point to keep in mind is that magic is a natural phenomenon not a supernatural phenomenon and as such it conforms to natural laws and therefore logically it has its natural limitations. Magic is not a miraculous panacea for every difficulty that life throws at you, despite what some books on the subject tell us. How on earth are we supposed to learn the lessons and gain experience of life if we “run to mummy” and reach for the spell book every time we have a problem to negotiate? This is a mistake that many operators make.

The spell is best likely to succeed when you have a realistic chance of achieving it by your own efforts to begin with. Let us remember that magic is an ally – it is not our servant. Anyone attempting to use magic as their slave is working to the Left Hand Path and will end up in deep trouble. For example, if you are caught red handed throwing a brick through a jeweller’s window, you are going to prison, it is as simple as that. True, you could do a working for the judge to be lenient with you, but that would be all you could do. No amount of rituals could keep you out of court.

These days do-it-yourself books of spells are easily available and although there are a few good ones, many contain much nonsense – the commonest mistake that they print is that belief is all you need to perform a successful spell.

Belief is certainly vital, after all there would be little point in attempting the spell if you had no faith in it. But it is a special kind of belief that matters, and much more important is personal effort on the part of the operator. I can believe that I can jump off a building and fly. It doesn’t believe matter how strongly I believe it, as soon as I jump off the building I am sure to hit the pavement! Consider this equation:

POSITIVE THOUGHTS + POSITIVE ACTIONS + POSITIVE VISUALISATIONS = POSITIVE RESULTS

The problem with performing spells from a book is that they are somebody else’s spells and although effective for the author they may not work so well for you. It is far better to compose your own spell or ritual especially considering what we have said earlier about making a personal effort. Just as a magical tool will have more power if it is hand crafted by the Magician, so a self composed spell is sure to be more effective for the same magical reasons.

You must also be very precise in the working of your spells. You must be clear beyond doubt as to what you are trying to accomplish. A London Wiccan I know petitioned for £500. He stepped out into the street and found a £500 monopoly note. Yet he got what he asked for! The lesson here is, for example you want a new car, visualise yourself in it and driving it. Work for the car direct, not for the money with which to purchase it.

This brings us to another important point – visualisation. This, like belief and personal effort is essential to the successful magical working. Mental discipline is therefore very important. When I first joined the Craft, part of my early training in the First Degree involved a gruelling programme of some 60 exercises involving visualisation and concentration, and working with the four elements. Although tough, and not everyone can hack it, I have never regretted working through it and to this day I always pass them onto anyone that I teach the Craft to. The exercises provide an excellent primer to serious ritual work and I believe that no Wiccan however experienced could fail to benefit from the course. Mental discipline then, is of paramount importance.

The would-be spell worker should define their goals within a special framework of ethics. Traditionally Wicca teaches that whatever magical forces you transmit through your rituals will return threefold. Most serious Covens will not attempt psychic attack for this reason. The consequences for even attempting this kind of working can be dire indeed.

Similarly money and love spells are a dubious area. Rituals to win the pools or lottery are quite wrong in my view. The Wiccan Crede is “Eight words the Wiccan rede fulfil – an’ it harm none do what you will”. If you perform a spell to win the lottery you are basically working to give yourself an unfair advantage over everyone else who has bought a ticket. You are not physically harming them, but you are certainly harming them in another way. Such a working is therefore against Wiccan law.

Love spells are another grey area. I personally prefer to leave them alone although I acknowledge that they can be justified in some circumstances. Casting spells to win the love of the attractive girl in the office are a blatant attempt to interfere with the free will of another especially if the target is in a relationship that you are trying to break up. Such a spell is pure Left Hand Path and would in any case almost certainly fail.

So can money and love spells be justified at all? In some cases I would say yes. For instance, if a brother and sister were starving or the bailiffs were at their door, then I can’t see that a working to improve their financial situation by fair effort would be out of order. Clearly a degree of discretion is called for when assessing rituals for financial gain. I feel that as long as one sticks to the maxim “need not greed” you will not go far wrong. As for love spells, I have no problems with a single person performing a spell to attract a new partner without naming a specific individual. Similarly if a Coven knew of two people who were attracted to one another but both were painfully shy, I think that few people would say the group were wrong to work a spell to bring them together.

On the subject of Covens, working spells with a group and as a solitary both have their pros and cons. Working with a group it is easier to raise the power and more of it, but the goal worked for is more or less at the discretion of the High Priestess. Furthermore only one member of the group needs to be a little tired or depressed or lose concentration for the whole working to be short circuited. Once again we can see the need for first class concentration and visualisation skills.

Working alone, it is harder to raise the power, but the lone worker is “the boss” as it were, and is in complete control of the ritual. He/she can work for whatever he/she wants; one is not bound by the rules and wishes of a particular Coven and he/she can work whenever is convenient for them, not specifically designated Coven nights. In twenty-six years as a Wiccan initiate, I have only been a Coven member for about five of those years. Personally I have a marked tendency to prefer working alone.

Just how do we know when a ritual has succeeded? This is a difficult question to answer. There is a sort of feeling, a gut feeling or flash of intuition which may tell you that petition has been answered, or some set of circumstances may bring it about that which are so remote or unlikely to have happened without unseen aid. This is the true religious miracle. Similarly when we perform a ritual that works only partially or not at all we often receive signs why it is inappropriate for the wish to be granted at that time. But before writing a ritual off as a failure, always remember that some spells may require several repetitions before any results are observed. in magic, persistence pays.

Magic can be found in virtually every religion there is. Christians pray to God or to Jesus for favours, Roman Catholics go one step further by petitioning saints for aid. Nichires Shoshu Buddhists chant a special formula to bring about changes on a material plane…etc, etc. The Roman Catholic Mass seeks to unite the worshipper with God through the sacrament of communion. Is not union with God the true Great Work, the ultimate magic ritual? The working of magic is a true sacred and special gift/privilege of the Gods. Clearly care must be taken not to abuse it and to use the art ethically, discreetly and with respect. Just as the Gods have given us the gift of spell working, they can just as easily revoke it and take it away. They also have a knack of teaching those who abuse the Craft a sharp and unpleasant lesson if need be!

Understanding the Kabbalah

Largely due to the interest shown by Esther (The artist formerly known as Madonna), the Kabbalah has received a lot of mainstream media attention of late. It is an integral part of high magic, and yet it is exceptionally difficult to write about concisely, which is why it has taken so long for us to put together a useful section for you, here at PaganNews.com.

madonna
Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

We have been able to pull together some of the key points that you need to know in order to get a basic understanding of this fascinating mystical tradition. However, since we cannot hope to encompass everything you need to know about it in one small article, we have also identified some key books that can help you get a better understanding. You’ll find the reading list at the end of the article.

"Tree of Life 2009 large" by Alan James Garner - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Tree of Life 2009 large” by Alan James GarnerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Kabbalah, Qabala, Qabbalah, Cabala.

The spelling varies because the word, which means ‘Oral tradition’ comes from Hebrew, which is very much a phonetic language. It evolved from Jewish mysticism, which wanted to penetrate the inner mysteries of the Torah – the Jewish Scriptures. The key symbol of the Kabbalah is the Tree of Life, and the Spheres (or Sephiroth) that it contains. Understanding the Kabbalah allows one to understand the true nature of being. Many Wiccan traditions incorporate the study of the Kabbalah into their higher degrees, and it is also central to the Golden Dawn, Rosicrucianism and Hermeticism.

It is important to understand the Kabbalah because it provides a unified system of theology that in many ways ties quite neatly into current scientific thinking regarding the creation of the Universe.

Basically it goes like this:

In the beginning, there was not even nothing. Not zero, but Null. This was the Ain Soph Aur. Then from that came limitless nothing – the Ain Soph. And in that moment there was a flash of realization, and there was limitless light. And so began the World of Emanation – Atziluth. The Godhead, The Monad, suddenly existed. In order to experience itself it became two – The God and Goddess. And with the knowledge of each other they formed the Supernal Triad, And thus began the world of Creation – Briah. The creation led to the world of Formation (Yetzirah), wherein lay the distinctiveness of individuality. This is the realm of the Gods and Goddesses, or the Archangels and all that live beyond our plane. And it was from here that our plane was manifested – Assiah – The world of Action and Manifestation.

So began the billions of years of expansion and evolution that finally led to a vessel for the Godhead to experience the Material world – Humanity. For in each of us lies the Divine Spirit – the Holy Ghost – The Higher Self. But our animal side makes us forget who we are. We forget we are divine, and so the world’s religions and prayers and spells are our (often unconscious) attempt to reconnect with that.

As we grow and evolve, we begin our movement back up the Tree of Life, but beware – for before we can rejoin with the Godhead completely, we must pass the Abyss (the Sphere of Da’ath) through which we can once again fall back to the Material, if we are unready.

The Triads and Pillars

The Spheres on the Tree of life and grouped into three Triads, with the Earth plane, Malkuth, at the bottom. These Sephiroth are arranged on Three Pillars. the outer pillars are The Black Pillar of Might (On the left) and the White Pillar of Mercy (on the right). These are the Pillars of Boaz and Joab that appeared in Solomon’s Temple, and which are depicted today in many Tarot decks on the card of the High Priestess. In fact you will find much of the imagery in traditional Tarot decks (particularly Rider-Waite decks and Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) are representative of different aspects of the Tree of Life.

The middle, golden pillar of Mildness and Power is a later addition, and is more a path than a true Pillar. One of the key exercises in High Magic is the Middle Pillar Exercise, wherein one vibrates the Divine Names of the Sephiroth on the Middle Pillar as they correspond to key energy points (or chakras) in the body.

The Supernal Triad

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This triad represents the highly abstract emanations of Divinity. This level of the Godhead is so far beyond our experience that it is impossible to truly comprehend. It is the essence of all of us, of all things, and the primal force – the Universal Deity. This triad consists of:

Kether – Crown

Kether is the Root, the Crown, the ‘Primum Mobile’. It is the first state of being. Before Kether, there was nothing. It is the Emanation, which lead to the Creation. Kether is androgynous – neither male or female, and contains the All within in. It is the first realization that says ‘I AM’.

Chokmah – Wisdom

Chokmah is the first idea. The idea of Force, or change. It is the first masculine essence, the first positive polarity. Chokmah is totally without form, simply pure force.

Binah – Understanding

Binah is the counterpart – and counterbalance – of Chokmah. Where Chokmah is the force, Binah is the Form. It is the first feminine, the first negative polairty. Where Chokmah is active, Binah is passive. Binah is the great Mother. It is without force. Neither Binah or Chokmah can exist without the other. One without the other is incomplete.

The Abyss

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Below the Supernal Triad lies the Abyss. The Abyss is called Da’ath, and is not a Sepirah in the true sense. It is rather a marker, representing the fall of mankind – the fall that lead to our forgetting, for Da’ath represents knowledge – knowledge we have lost. It also separates the lower sephiroth from the Supernals, and acts as a barrier through which only that which is truly ready to rejoin with the Godhead can pass.

The Ethical (secondary) Triad

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This Triad echoes the supernal, but contains within it a stronger sense of individuality. It is the realm of the greater gods and archangels. It is here that Might and Mercy are ultimately balanced and tested. This triad consists of

Chesed – Mercy

Chesed is the first sphere of the second triad, the first sphere of actuality. Chesed is Mercy and Love. But unbalanced Mercy is weakness, and so Chesed is balance by Geburah, which is Might.

Geburah – Strength

Where Chesed is Mercy, Geburah is Might. It is Power and Strength, Energy and Courage. Geburah is Severity, but unbalanced severity is cruelty, hence it is balanced by Chesed, the sphere of Mercy.

Tiphareth – Harmony

Tiphareth stands at the center of the tree, and as such represents Harmony, Balance and Beauty. It is called the Lesser Countenance, for it reflects the Divine light of Kether. When one leaves the Outer order of the Golden Dawn, one stands before Tiphareth to commence the Great Work. Tiphareth is Death and Rebirth, being reborn cleansed and purified.

The Lower Triad & Malkuth

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This triad reflects and extends the pattern of the previous triads, adding complexity and a stronger individuality. It is this triad that interacts most directly with the Material plane which is found in the last Sephirah, Malkuth. The Sephiroth of this grouping are

Netzach – Victory

Netzach is Victory, Emotion and Love in all its forms. Netzach is first sphere on the third triad, and it is here where the energy we refer to as the God or the Goddess is split into its different aspects. Netzach is selflessness and altruism and. It is the sephirah of animal drives and passion. It is the Natrual as opposed to the Contrived.

Hod – Splendour

Hod is Glory and Splendor. It is Honesty and Integrity.Hod is sound and the word. It is the circuit, energized by Netzach. Where Netzach is Nature, Hod is Knowledge. It is the artificial and the contrived. Hod is the sephirah of mental faculties, of Intelligence and Reason.

Yesod – Foundation

Yesod is the dark side of the Moon. It is the last sphere of the last triad, and the boundary between the material world and the planes beyond. Yesod rules the cycles of Time and of Nature. It is the phases of the Moon. Yesod is fluid, yet precise. Yesod provides the life force for the Material plane, Malkuth. Yesod is the potential – Malkuth is the realization of that potential.

Finally, we enter the Material Plane

Malkuth – Kingdom

Malkuth is the last sphere on the Tree of Life, and the first from our point of view, for it is where we manifestly exist. Malkuth is the Kingdom, where Kether is the Crown. Here is the plane where the princess resides, both the daughter and Bride of the God. Malkuth is where her journey – our journey – both ends and begins.

Each of these spheres, and the paths between them, correspond to cards in the Tarot deck.  In fact understanding the Qabbalah is an incredibly useful tool to help you learn the mysteries of the Tarot.

To continue your studies further, here are some books we recommend that you may find useful:


Spells 101

First things first. Hogwarts is a wonderful fictional place that sprung from the creative well of J.K. Rowling’s imagination. It is not real, and you are not Harry Potter.

What Spells are, and what they are not.

If nothing else, spells are intention. They are a focused, directed desire for a change in circumstances for you or someone else.

Spells are often compared to prayers, and that is a reasonable though misleading comparison, because while many spells involve calling up help from a specific deity, others do not. In the sense that both spells and prayers seek for external intervention in the trajectory of events, they are indeed similar.

Spells are not going to break the laws of physics. They are not going to turn someone into a toad. They are not going to turn water into wine, unless part of that spell involves adding grapes to the water and fermenting for a long period of time.

Spells are not going to make you prettier. You know the best glamor spell? An honest smile. Probably the most disarming thing a person can do is smile honestly at someone else. Try it, you’d be amazed.

And this gets to the heart of the matter – spells are no substitute for doing real work in the real world. If someone is hungry, make them a sandwich. If they are cold, give them a blanket. If you’re too far away to do any of those things, then by all means, send them love and good energy.

A real witch knows that knowledge, common sense and experience and more magical than any ritual or spell and are far more useful attributes to have.

However, before we can do anything in the world of any use, we need to be clear about our intentions, and in that regard, spells can be useful for helping create that clarity and focus.




Preparing for Spell work

Before performing any spell, first ask yourself these questions, which basically summarize the information above.

    • Can I achieve the same result without magic?

      Magic should always be your last resort, not your first. There are often more practical ways to achieve the same result!

       

    • What is the purpose of this Spell?

      You should be very clear on what you are looking for. Write it down, in the form of the outcome. Do not write, for example ‘I want a lot of money’. You may find that what you end up with is the desire for money, and not the money itself. Instead, phrase it thus ‘I have all the money I need.’ This is the desired outcome – to arrive at that state. Be clear in your mind of the outcome, and the outcome will be more likely to occur the way you want it.
    • Is what I am asking for impossible?

      Contrary to popular belief, spells (and prayers for that matter) cannot break Universal Law. They can appear to, by producing an improbable outcome. But that is not the same as an impossible one.

Now that you’ve got all that out of the way, you should cleanse and purify yourself and your working space. Take a bath. Meditate. Clear your mind and body of anything that can interfere with the intention of your working. Sage is a great tool for cleansing spaces, and we will talk about smudging in a later article.

Think about the purpose of your spell, and start pulling together components that can help it come together. Sympathetic magic uses the energy of things that resonate with what you seek. Colors, scents, similar objects and so on.

In Weird Science, Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) try to create the perfect woman. The bras on their head are a rather bizarre example of sympathetic magic.
In Weird Science, Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) try to create the perfect woman. The bras on their head are a rather bizarre example of sympathetic magic.

The following example spells include correspondences that are in resonance with the desired outcome. By pulling all this together, you are creating a very powerful intention.

Spell for Abundance

Abundance spells are associated with the following deities:

    • The Olympian Deity Hecate/Carmenta (Goddess of the Crossroads) – A suitable offering would be Honey, Pomegranate.
    • The Celtic Deity Brighid (Goddess of Fire, Healing and Smithcraft) – A suitable offering would be Fire, Coins, Blackberries.
    • The Celtic Deity Dagda (The Good God)
    • The Celtic Deity Llyr (God of the Sea)

      Each of these Gods has their own needs in terms of offerings, colors and the best time to work with them. The spell itself (in this case Abundance), also has its own special energies which should be attended to. Unless otherwise stated, spells grow in power between the new and full moon (waxing) and reduce in power during waning moons.

      For Abundance spells, the best day to perform the spell is Sunday, since Sunday is associated with Abundance. (In fact it is associated with all of these: health, abundance, healing, confidence and hope, prosperity).

      You should also be sure to use the right herbs, candles, perfumes and incense for your ritual. For your Abundance ritual, the following would be appropriate, in addition to any offerings you wish to make to the chosen deity:

      Correspondences for Abundance
      Incense: Mastic, Palaginia, Pepper, Dragons Blood
      Planets: Sun
      Incense: heliotrope, orange blossom, cloves, frankincense,
      Candles: Green, Gold
      Herbs: Jasmine Flowers, Cinnamon, Yellowdock Root,

Remember to check the needs of the Gods and Goddesses you intend to work with also, and include appropriate offerings for them.

Every Tradition has its own method of ritual construction, so you will have to decide how best to incorporate all the above elements into your calls, casting, purification and offerings. All these elements help to raise the cone of power, and focus the attention of the deities, the elemental forces and you, on the matter at hand. Finally we come to the spell itself. Here is a Abundance spell you can use for this ritual:

Spell for Abundance

You will Need:

  • A Green Pen
  • A Check from YOUR checkbook.

    Write a check to yourself. In the amount field, put Paid in Full. Sign the Check: The Law of Abundance.
    Put the check somewhere safe.

That’s it! The universe works on its own timeframe. The last and most important ingredient in any spell should be patience.


For Love spells, the best day to perform the spell is Friday, since Friday is associated with Love. (In fact it is associated with all of these: Love, friendships, affection, partnerships, money, sex).

Friday also happens to be the favored day of the Goddess Aphrodite/Venus , the Goddess Hathor , the Goddess Freya , the Goddess Frigg/Frigga , the God Eros/Cupid , the Goddess Brighid , the Goddess Asherah , the Goddess Inanna/Ishtar , the more the spell and deity have in common, the better!
You should also be sure to use the right herbs, candles, perfumes and incense for your ritual. For your Love ritual, the following would be appropriate, in addition to any offerings you wish to make to the chosen deity:

Correspondences for Love
Incense: China Rain, Gardenia, Jasmine, Lavender, Musk, Rose
Planets: Venus
Perfumes: Stephanotis, apple blossom, musk, ambergris
Candles: Red
Herbs: Cinnamon, Vervain, Mistletoe

Remember to check the needs of the Gods and Goddesses you intend to work with also, and include appropriate offerings for them.
Every Tradition has its own method of ritual construction, so you will have to decide how best to incorporate all the above elements into your calls, casting, purification and offerings. All these elements help to raise the cone of power, and focus the attention of the deities, the elemental forces and you, on the matter at hand. Finally we come to the spell itself.

You will need:

  • A Fresh Onion
  • Potting Soil
  • A Pot to plant the onion in
  • Water

    Place the soil in the pot, plant the onion in the soil, so that only the tip peeks out. As you do this, repeat over and over:
    As this onion grows, so does {their name}’s love for me.
    When the ritual is completed, place the onion near a window but away from direct sunlight, and water lightly every two or three days.

    When you have completed the spell, thank the gods and carry out your normal closing ceremonies.


These are just a couple of examples. You will find more in the following books.


Finally, one word about negative energy spells. Don’t. There is no benefit in casting spells that have the intention of hurting others, because doing so weakens you, and does little or nothing to those you seek to affect. Better to consider releasing them from your life altogether and moving forward in Love.

Performing a Ritual

True Magic is knowledge, and experience. It is doing what needs to be done, helping those you can, comforting those you can’t, protecting those who need it, and giving voice to those who have none. That is the real magic that changes the world. That is the Pagan Way – honoring the Earth and every living thing in it.

Sometimes, however we may feel a need to perform a ritual, whether it is simply to honor the Sabbats and Esbats, or to perform a marriage or celebrate a birth, and occasionally to walk those who are passing to the next world.

Rituals can be used for other things too, but before you perform any ritual, ask yourself if there is a simpler, more direct way to reach your goal? If you still need to perform a ritual, then this guide should help you.

What is the Purpose?

When preparing a ritual its purpose and method of execution must be clearly defined. The ritual should be carefully choreographed ahead of time, partly to avoid confusion, partly to ensure clarity of purpose, but mostly out of respect for the deities and spiritual watchers that will be expected to sit through it! The Priest and Priestess will normally confer and prepare an appropriate ritual once the purpose has been decided upon, then share it with the other key players within the ritual who will be responsible for ensuring its smooth execution. This typically includes the Summoner and the Handmaiden, and any other people that will primarily involved in the rite (for example the bride and groom in a hand-fasting).

Charge of the Summoner

The Summoner, or “Fetch” as he is often called, is used to communicate between covens, to protect the circle and its participants, and to challenge those who would enter the circle. Typically, he will carry a staff and will thump it on the ground three times at the start of the ritual, and ask each person (except the Priest, Priestess and handmaiden) their name, and how they intend to behave during the ritual. This has evolved into ‘What is your name and how do you enter?’. When challenged, you may provide your birth name, given name, chosen name or secret name. The answer to the question ‘how do you enter?’ should be short and honest, and should reflect your state of mind. ‘With perfect love and perfect trust’ is a common response to give, but make sure you understand what that means – a state of mind without expectations, prejudices or dis-ease.

Here is a typical Summoner’s Charge, which is spoken by the Summoner after calling people to attention.

“THE PRESENCE OF THE GODDESS EXTENDS EVERYWHERE
THROUGH MANY STANGE, MAGICKAL AND BEAUTIFUL WORLDS.
TO ALL PLACES OF WILDERNESS, ENCHANTMENT AND FREEDOM.
THE GOD IS WITH US THROUGH ALL OF OUR LIVES
WHEREVER WE FIND OURSELVES, HE IS THERE, GUIDING AND PROTECTING.
FOR WE HAVE ASKED:
LET THE PAGANS DWELL TOGETHER IN LOVE & UNITY,
IN LOYALTY & TRUST
THINKING NO EVIL OF ONE ANOTHER
LET COMPASSION TEMPER JUSTICE,
AND LET JUSTICE BALANCE COMPASSION
BE SERENE & DILIGENT,
WISE & TEMPERATE,
SECURE & STRONG
FOR THERE IS A BLESSING ON ALL WHO WORSHIP THE HORNED GOD AND THE MOTHER GODDESS.
ENTER NOW, WHO WILL DO SO
IN THE SPIRIT OF THE CIRCLE.”

The summoner then asks each person:

“WHAT IS YOUR NAME AND HOW DO YOU ENTER?”

Besom Sweep

The handmaiden has many duties. She will greet and annoint those whom the Summoner has permitted to enter the circle. She assists in preparation and execution of the ritual, and sweeps the ground to sanctify it for the rite ahead. As she travels around the circle sweeping, it is common practice for her to touch the heel of those who have gathered, to sweep any evil or negative energy from them.

This is a traditional Besom Sweep chant, spoken by the handmaiden as she sweeps the circle

Besom, besom long and lithe
Made from ash and willow withe
Tied with thongs of willow bark
In running stream at moonset dark.
With a pentagram in dighted
As the ritual fire is lighted;
Sweep ye circle, deosil,
Sweep out evil, sweep out ill.
Make the round of the ground
Where we do the Lady’s will.
Besom, besom, Lady’s broom
Sweep out darkness, sweep out doom
Rid ye Lady’s hallowed ground
Of demons, imps, and Hell’s red hound.
Then set ye down on Her green earth
By running stream or Mistress hearth,
Til called once more on Moon or Sabbat night
To cleanse once more the dancing site

Quarters/Watchtowers

Some call them Quarters, others Watchtowers, or Guardians or Elementals. In any event they represent the four elements, and in some cases the fifth element – Spirit. Their energies are brought into the circle to provide depth, power, balance and witnesses to the proceedings. Each quarter is usually offered something representing their domain, e.g. incense for air, a candle for fire, water for water (strangely enough) and salt for earth. Some traditions use candles, or an offering to a specific deity that has dominion over that element.

Since we’re starting to move into oathbound territory, we’re not going to provide examples for these next few sections (sorry), however there are plenty of books that you can find some powerful calls in to use. A couple we recommend are by Raymond Buckland:

God/Goddess Calls

The Priest and Priestess typically call upon the God and Goddess to join their rite. Sometimes it is a generic call to ‘Our Lord God’ and ‘Our Lady Goddess’. In other cases, depending on the coven or Sabbat, specific deities may be called. In some traditions this is also known as the Charge of the God/Goddess. It is also quite common to recognize that one deity may have different names in different pantheons (Cerridwyn, Persephone etc) and call on all their aspects as the circle is cast.

Blessing

The ritual food is blessed by the priest and priestess. This usually consists of wine or ale, cakes or bread, or items suitable to the ritual or sabbat. Once blessed, it is normally passed around between all those in the circle, so each may partake of the offering. Once this is complete, the remainder is usually placed in a libation bowl and then offered to the gods.

Raising Energy
Depending on the purpose of the ritual, it is common to use the combined energies of all those in the circle to add power to the rite. This is why the manner in which you enter the circle is important. A chant is frequently used to achieve this energy raising, often while the priest and priestess are performing the working that forms the focal point of the ritual. The chants are usually repeated over and over, slowly and quietly at first then louder and faster, until then energy reaches the appropriate level to ‘power’ the workings.

This example of a power chant is quite commonly heard at public rituals:

Air, I am.
Fire, I am.
Water, Earth and Spirit,
I am.

Dismissal

Once the deities have departed, the elements (quarters, watchtowers etc). Are then also dismissed. Again, they are thanked for their presence and then bid farewell.
This method varies from tradition to tradition, and again some people get a bit touchy about oath-bound stuff (a debate for another article perhaps).

Opening the Circle

With all non-physical entities now departed from the circle, the Priest or Priestess will perform an appropriate action to signify that the circle is open once more.

A typical ritual may end with all present speaking a brief closing poem or song, like this commonly used one:

The circle is open , but unbroken,
May the peace of the Goddess and God
Go in our hearts,
Merry meet, and merry part.
And merry meet again. Blessed beThis rite is ended. So mote it be.

All are then free to depart from the ritual.


Samhain – October 31st

At Samhain, the Sun God, having died at Mabon (September 23) and having returned to the womb of the Great Mother, grows strong and awaits his rebirth at Yule. This begins the time of the greatest darkness, the time of the Crone, the ancient Queen of Death. In the natural world, life is decaying into death, returning nutrients to the soil that will bring life again in spring.

  • Samhain herbs: Acorn/Oak, Apple, Corn, Dittany of Crete, Hazel, Nightshade, Fumitory,mugwort, Allspice, Sage, Gourds, Catnip, Apple trees.
  • Samhain colors: Orange, black and brown.
  • Samhain offerings: Apples, pumpkin pie, beets, turnips, hazelnuts, corn, gingerbread, pomegrantates, cider, herbal teas, pork dishes.
  • Samhain is a time to honorHecate/Carmenta, Anubis, Isis, Nephthys, Osiris,Hel, Arawn, Don, Merlin, Morrigan, Idunna,Winter_King, Cailliach.

The celebration of Samhain (pronounced in proper Gaelic: “sow-in”) came from the Celtic peoples many centuries ago. This yearly festival was adopted by the Roman invaders, who helped to propagate it throughout the rest of the world (and at that time, the Roman Empire was the world). The word “Halloween” itself actually comes from a contraction of All Hallows Eve, or All Saint’s Day (November 1), which is a Catholic day of observance in honour of saints.

It’s a time which is thought to be when the division between the living and the dead was at its thinnest. Samhain was considered to be a gateway not only from the land of the dead to the land of the living, but also between Summer and Fall/Winter. For the Druids, this was the last gasp of summer (it was also the Celtic New Year), so therefore they made sure it went out with a bang before they had to button down for the winter ahead.

According to Irish folklore, there once lived a man named Jack who was known for being a drunk and a prankster. One night Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree, and quickly carved an image of a cross on the trunk, trapping the devil. Jack then made him promise that, in exchange for letting him out of the tree, the Devil would never tempt him to sin again. He reluctantly agreed, but was able to exact his revenge upon Jack’s death. Because of his mischevious ways in life, Jack was barred from entering heaven and because of his earlier trick, he was also barred from hell. So he was doomed to wander the earth until the end of time, with only a single ember (carried in a hollowed out turnip) to warm him and light his way.

Ritual of Samhain

This ritual comes from the neo celtic tradition, Inis Glas Thoir and was written by John Gibson

Items needed:

Cauldron & heatproof base
Alcohol
Matches
Bi/le image
Salt for Mana/nnan
Grain for Danu
Honey for Bi/le
Milk & bread for the land spirits
Milk jug
Libation bowl
White pillar candle
Birch scented oil
Incense burner & incense
Votive candles & candle holders
Images of ancestors & dead
Ritual feast
Plates for deities & ancestors
Suitable music
Tarot & other divinatory tools
Two or three people to perform the ritual

The altar table is set at the head of the dining table, with the altar cloth, the Cauldron of Hospitality and the image of Bi/le. When all are assembled, the Cauldron is lit.

R1: Three cauldrons that are in every fort: the cauldron of motion, the cauldron of warmth, the cauldron of guests. Tonight we welcome you into our home, and light the cauldron of hospitality, which contains all these three. (lights cauldron) We are come to
celebrate the new year and to remember those who have gone into the Otherworlds before us.

R2: Tonight we call upon the spirits of this place, of the Duwamish, of Seattle, of the land all around us to be at peace with us, and to walk lightly among us. We call upon the spirits of rivers, oceans, mountains, and forests to be at peace with us and to walk
lightly among us. We call upon the land spirits to accept our offerings on this, the night of the new year. (Each person pours out milk and breaks bread into the libation bowl. Each person says:) May the land spirits bless us in this new year.

R3: On this night, the ancestors walk abroad. The gates between the worlds are open wide. We call upon our ancestors, those known and unknown, to come among us and celebrate our reunion on this night of Samhain. We call upon our loved ones who have passed into the
House of Donn to come and feast with us tonight. We call upon the Mighty Dead to assemble here and be remembered.

R2: Mana/nnan, a thiarna, Lord of Mists, Gatekeeper, you who lead the dead from the House of Donn into the Plain of Delight, be with us this night and guide the Mighty Dead through the gates to join us in our rite. (Each person tastes salt.)

R1: Danu, mo bandia, Mother of Gods, Mother of Rivers, you who embrace the dead as they leave our world for the House of Donn, be with us this night and support the Mighty Dead
as they join with us in our rite. (Each person tastes grain.)

R3: Bi/le, a thiarna, Tree of Life, Lord of Death, you who rule the dead on the Plain of Delight, be with us this night and guard the Mighty Dead as they join us in our rite.
(Each person tastes honey.)

Recipes for Samhain – Fruits and vegetables
By Patrick McCleary

There are a few fruits and vegetables that are traditional for Samhain, besides pumpkin that is. A few of these are squash, and apples. Nuts are also traditional for this time of the year. It is the time of the last harvest and so those things that we associate with late fall are the foods we will be wanting to prepare. So here are a few recipes for you to enjoy:

Apple nut Stuffing in Acorn Squash

  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 6 slices of white bread, cut into small cubes
  • 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp. dried poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. each rosemary and thyme
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 4 dried apple rings, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp. slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup warmed milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsps. butter

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Prepare squash, set aside.
3.In a medium bowl, toss together bread and spices, set aside.
4.In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tsp. butter until melted. Add chopped apple rings and nuts. Saute until apple is slightly softened and nuts are golden in color.
5.Add apple and nut mixture to bread mixture.
6.Add warmed milk and salt and pepper to taste.
7.Dot squash halves with butter.
8.Scoop stuffing into hollow squash halves
9.Put squash halves on a baking sheet, brush lightly with butter, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
10.Squash will be ready when soft and fragrant
Clear Sight Carrots

  • 3 cups sliced carrots
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Boil or steam the carrots until tender. Drain. Add the butter, brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon; stir until the carrots are well-coated.

Samhain Pumpkin Bread

Personally I have never been a fan of pumpkin flavored anything, but since this the most prevalent food of this season, I figured I would give it another try. So I went to the store and bought a small pie pumpkin. A small one that weighed like two pounds or so. I then chopped the pumpkin in half and gave a half to each of the kids for them to scrape out the seeds and the strings, which I had to help them with. I then baked each half for about an hour at 350 degrees. Then, when cool, the kids got their half back to scrape out the flesh of the pumpkin from within the shell. The recipe we used for pumpkin bread is as follows:

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree, packed

1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.
2. Add the eggs and mix well.
3. Combine dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture just until moistened.
4. Stir in prepared pumpkin.
5. Pour into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pans.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until bread tests done.

Now that I have baked this bread, I must say that my palette has truly changed. I actually enjoyed the pumpkin and am planning on buying a larger pumpkin this week to make more of this fantastic bread. I must tell you that the two pound pumpkin only yielded me about 3 cups of usable pumpkin puree, so if you are planning on making more than a couple of loafs you will want either more pumpkins or a larger one.

 

Mabon – September 21st

As the summer draws to a close, we are once again brought to the time of Mabon. The second harvest ritual of the year, Mabon is also the Autumnal equinox, and one of the times of the year when day equals night. In times of old the farmers would harvest by moonlight to avoid the insufferable heat of the day, hence the phrase “harvest moon”. This is also around the time of year when livestock was slaughtered so meats were plentiful. Of course the colors of this sabbat are in correspondence with nature, warm colors, gold tones, rich warm reds, yellows and oranges.

  • Mabon herbs: Acorn/Oak Benzoin, Fern, Grains, Honeysuckle, Marigold, Milkweed, Myrrh, Passionflower, Rose, Sage, Solomon’s Seal, Thistle, Vegetables
  • Mabon colors: Gold, rich, red, yellow, orange
  • Mabon offerings: Grains, meats fruits of the harvest
  • Mabon is a time to honor Apollo,Demeter/Ceres, Dionysus/Bacchus, Hathor, Thor,Gabriel, Gaia/Tellus.

This ritual is one in which we will give thanks to the Gods for the bountiful harvest of this year, but also evaluate the year that has past and decide what you will “harvest” and keep with you, and what it is best to give back to the earth. It is a time to seek out that balance and mirror nature, work towards an equilibrium in your life, shed those things that are weighing you down. In a Mabon ritual you may expect to find homage to a dying God who knows his time with us will soon draw to a temporary close, dying at Samhain to be reborn of the Goddess at Yule. You may also see depictions of the Goddess becoming her crone aspect and leaving the earth for the winter such as enactments of the Goddess Persephone going down to spend the next few months in the underworld. Themes that dominate and those of storing and preparing for the winter and lean times, reflection and then relaxation and preparations to enjoy another winter by the hearth. Mabon is also a time for feasting, friends and family, a time of abundance and plenty. And, of course we must keep in mind the aspects of festival and celebration of nature, and remember to be free and love the earth and all that surrounds us.

Lughnasadh – August 1st

August 1st marks the Celtic holiday of Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-na-sa), also known as Lammas, which is the beginning of the grain harvest.

In days past, candidates for king would go to the Fayre of Tailtiu. Tailtiu was the queen of the Fir Bolg (an ancient celtic race) , the daughter of Mag Mor and the foster mother of Lugh. She died of exhaustion after the labor of clearing the lands of Ireland for cultivation, and in commemoration, Lugh held a festival for her. Two weeks prior to festival day, it was customary to climb a hill and survey the land before harvest. The festival then commenced, and lasted for four weeks � two weeks past the actual day.

The last chaff of wheat or grain to be cut was kept and crafted into a corn doll, symbolizing Lugh. At Lughnasadh, she is called the Corn Mother. In the spring, she becomes Corn Bride, the Maiden Goddess Bride.

It was Lugh who invented draughts (checkers), ballplay and horsemanship and these sacred games were important in the celebration of the festival, as they were used to show off strength and skill. In addition, this festival was used to gather news, settle arguments and arrange marriages and alliances. Mighty feasting and drinking were the underlying theme of this wonderful festival.

It is prophesied that, as long as the custom shall be maintained, there will be corn and milk in every house, peace and fine weather for the feast.

This is the season when everything seems at its richest = trees crops and long warm days. These are called the “dog days” of Summer, because Sirius (The Dog Star) rises and sets with the sun between mid-July and September.

The word “Lammas” comes from “loaf mass” which celebrates the bread made from the first grain to be harvested. It is in honor of the Corn Mother that we now eat fresh bread and cakes.




Yule – December 21st

Winter Solstice, the return of the sun, was truly a cause for celebration among our ancestors. Yule begins on Mother Night. At the Yule the Goddess shows her Life-in-Death aspect. In this season she is the White Lady Queen of the cold darkness yet this is her moment of giving birth to the child of promise who brings back light and warmth to her kingdom.

 

 

Most Christmas traditions are rooted deep in ancient Yule rituals, many coming from the Vikings. During the Winter Solstice the Vikings honored their Asa Gods with religious rituals and feasting. A wild boar was sacrificed to Frey, the God of fertility and farming, to assure a good growing season in the coming year. They then feasted on the boar and this is the origin of today’s Christmas ham. During the twelve day festival a giant Sun wheel was set on fire and rolled down a hill to entice the sun to return. This could possibly be the source of the Christmas wreath.

Another ancient tradition is the Yule log, a large oak log decorated with sprigs of fir, holly or yew. This was carved with runes asking the Gods to protect them from misfortune. To make your own Yule log use a piece of apple, birch or oak. Begin by drilling holes for the three candles of the Triple Goddess; red to symbolize the bloodshed of birth, white for the innocence of new life and green symbolizing the growth process. Be sure to trim the bottom of the log to steady it. Decorate with greens, wild rose hips and winter berries. To insure good fortune and prosperity anoint with a sprinkle of apple cider and dust with corn meal before lighting the candles. Be sure to return the wood chips and sawdust to the sleeping earth. A piece of the log should be saved to protect the home during the coming year and to light next year’s fire.


The Yule tree was often adorned with symbols representing the sun, moon and stars. These, along with pieces of food, small statues of the Gods and carved runes were used to entice the tree spirits to come back in the spring. Gifts were also hung on the tree as offerings to the Gods.

Our pagan ancestors would dress someone to represent Old Man Winter, wrapped in a hooded fur coat with a long white beard. It is believed that he represented Odin and he traveled on Sleiphir, Odin’s great white horse. Old Man Winter was welcomed into homes and invited to join the festivities. When the Vikings conquered Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries, he was introduced there and became Father Christmas.

Ancient myths surround the mistletoe. It was believed to resurrect the dead. This was based on the legend about the resurrection of Balder, God of Light and Goodness, who was killed by a mistletoe arrow but resurrected when the tears of his mother Frigga turned the red mistletoe berries white. Mistletoe was considered magical and thought to have great healing powers.

The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Christmas symbols. Its origin is the legend of the protective, good natured Thunder God Thor who rode in the sky in a wagon pulled by two magical goats. They would visit the homes and bring happiness and protection at this very special time of the year. An old custom was for young people to dress up in goat skins and go from house to house to sing and perform simple plays. They were rewarded with food and drink.
What Yule celebration would be complete without a steaming cup Wassail to warm the chill of night while encircling the bonfires? ‘Waes Hale’, good health! This spicy holiday drink is more of an event than mere refreshment. An important ritual for the benefit of the apple harvest as well as the health of the local economy this tradition is still practiced in many areas. Gathering in the apple orchard on the ‘twelfth night’ townsfolk would drink large amounts of wassail with great mirth, merriment and dancing around the bonfires in order to honor the orchard and ensure good yields.

Here is one recipe for wassail:

Heat a large container of ale or beer, about 3 or 4 pints. Add:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mixed spice (cinnamon sticks and whole cloves are also excellent)
2 or 3 small sweet apples, cut up
1 1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 1/4 cup orange juice
the juice of 2 lemons
Place over a slow flame; then, before it begins to boil, take off the heat and whip up some cream. Let this float on top of the brew like foam.
Put in a suitably large bowl (the more ornate the better)

Now go out to a tree or trees with a few friends (these don’t have to be apple trees, since all can benefit from a well-intentioned blessing, but it is traditional to wassail fruit-bearing trees). Wet the roots liberally with the brew. Pass the rest around and when everyone is thoroughly warmed up sing a wassailing song, for example:

Here’s to thee, old apple tree.
Whence thou may’st bud and whence thou may’st blow,
And whence thou may’st bear apples now.
Hats full, caps full, bushel, bushel sacks full, and my pockets full too!

Lift your glasses to the tree and shout “Wassail!” as loud as you can.

Magical associations
apples – love, health, peace
pineapple – healing, money, protection & love lemons – love, happiness & purification
cinnamon – love, psychic awareness & money
sugar – love

A simple Wiccan ritual:
The celebration begins before dawn to culminate into the sun’s birth with a toast of apple juice or wine made to the holly king

Winter day of longest night
Step aside now for the light
Thank you for the things you’ve brought
That only darkness could have wrought

Then name the gifts of darkness such as regeneration, peace, dreams, organization, quietude, etc.
Use a white altar cloth and decorate with evergreens, poinsettias, rosemary, holly, mistletoe and ivy. To insure good luck and prosperity anoint a bayberry candle with oil and roll it in dried chamomile. Burn Yule incense (a mixture of chamomile, ginger, pine and sage). Meditate in the darkness and then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting the candle and singing chants and carols.
End the ritual at dawn with a toast of orange juice or mimosa to the sun!

O Newborn Sun of love and light
Rise quickly now, rise high and bright
Gain power in the sky above
I grant to you my support and love

This is an especially magical time when divination of the events of the coming year is also a prominent feature. Rune or Tarot readings can be especially significant at this time as can dreams or visions seen in meditation. Winter Solstice is also an excellent time for banishing rituals to eliminate disease, bad habits and addictions.

While we all enjoy exchanging gifts and feasting with our friends and family at this time of year perhaps we should extend this beautiful custom to include the other living creatures who share this earth with us. Put up bird feeders and keep them stocked with seed. You can make decorative wild bird treats by rolling pinecones in peanut butter and bird seed. This is also a wonderful time to donate funds, time or items to environmental organizations. Meditate for world peace.

Yule Recipes

By Patrick McCleary

Gingerbread Stars

One of the most traditional dishes at this time of the year is gingerbread. My kids and I absolutely love the rich taste of the ginger and molasses. So this past weekend we decided to make some gingerbread.

We had originally planned on making a gingerbread house, but we have had to many failures at that project. So we settled on making shapes instead. Following is the recipe that we used. Hope that you all enjoy as much as we have.

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1 1/1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg

Instructions
Sift the dry ingredients together in medium mixing bowl
Beat butter and sugar together in large bowl with electric mixer
Add molasses and egg and beat well
Gradually beat in flour mixture
Press dough into thick flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap
Refrigerate for four hours or overnight
Roll dough to 1/4 thickness on lightly floured surface
Cut into shapes
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 300 degrees
Cool on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes
Remove wire racks and cool completely





Yule Ham with a bit of Rum

Ham is the most traditional dish for this holiday season. And while a ham is easy to cook, the glaze for it is sometimes tougher to make. Here is a recipe that I have used on several occasions to fantastic reviews.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp mustard
2 to 3 Tbsp Dark Rum

In a medium size saucepan whisk together and heat to just before boiling these ingredients. Pour over a fully cooked ham and bake for ten to fifteen minutes more. Now don’t worry about the alcoholic content the cooking should cook out the alcohol. If you are still antsy then you can let the glaze simmer for about five minutes.

Yule Duck on the Grill
This brings me to the other animal that I choose to cook at this season. The duck. While tasty it is very greasy. You can boil it the same way as the ham to get rid of the grease, just be sure not to use the water from boiling the ham.

The last duck I cooked was on the BBQ grill. I arranged coals around a drip pan in the center of the grill. And after dipping the duck in boiling water, I dried it off and placed in on the grill on a low heat and let it slowly cook. I didn’t add anything else to the duck, but I enjoy the taste of the duck alone without any additions.

But you can make an orange glaze for the duck. Here is a recipe from recipecircus.com.
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp brandy

Combine orange juice, marmalade, honey, sugar and brandy in small saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Spoon glaze over ducks and return to oven for 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Watch to prevent scorching. Remove duck to platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.